Working remotely is the only way many businesses are operating under emergency stay-at-home orders. With short timelines for migration, just figuring out the technical requirements for enabling work from home was a challenge, much less how things were going to work once the transition was complete.
For companies that are new to working from home or those that could use a refresher, FlexIP Solutions has drawn on years of experience helping companies outfit remote teams to put together guidance on managing your newly remote workforce with these six tips.
- Schedule Check-Ins
A regular cadence of check-ins with your team is critical to staying on task as well as on top of individuals’ adjustment to their new work environment not to mention stressors related to the outbreak. Check-ins can be daily or weekly depending on who you’re managing and their role. If your team is large and you can’t manage individual meetings, a once-a-week staff meeting on a virtual conference call should be the minimum for keeping your organization oriented and headed in the right direction. That said, you’ll want to find opportunities to connect one-on-one to ensure that your employees have an opportunity to be heard especially about their challenges adapting to remote work and the new normal.
- Get a Chat-Enabled Communications Platform
A unified communications (UC) application with chat functionality built into it will speed up collaboration between your employees and various departments in your organization. While email is effective for communication, it’s not real-time and can cause delays when immediate responses are needed. On the other side, a phone call often can be too social and lengthy when a short and quick answer is required. Chat apps offer a happy medium. And, a UC application like Flex UC shows user availability and presence, so you know when your team can collaborate.
- Establish Communication Ground Rules
When you were in the office, you always knew something was urgent if you heard a knock on your office door or if an employee that rarely called popped up on caller ID. Now, everyone in your organization is going to be calling, messaging and emailing you, so figuring out what is and isn’t time-sensitive is near impossible. Escalation guidelines can help your team better manage the sudden increase in inbounds from multiple channels.
For example, your escalation policy might look something like this:
- All baseline non-urgent communication occurs in regularly scheduled meetings, check-in calls and email correspondence.
- Communications that need to be addressed today could be delivered via IMs or SMS messages over your UC platform.
- Communications that need to be addressed within the hour could be unplanned phone calls.
- Crisis communications could be a combination of unplanned phone calls followed by SMS, IM and emails until all parties are connected to address the issue.
- Set “No Communication” Boundaries
In the same way you need to set rules for when and how to escalate communication, your organization will need guidelines on how to shut down communication when the work day is done. Determining specific hours when your team is working and, more importantly, when they’re not is vital for ensuring work-life balance and preventing burn out. This is especially important now that everyone is working from home and not leaving the workplace, which is a normal transition from business to personal lives.
Encouraging your employees to log out of their UC desktop clients at the end of the workday will prevent any co-workers or managers who are working late from roping off-the-clock personnel into impromptu meetings.
- Use a Project Management System
Your business may already have a project management system as they’re fairly common even in organizations without remote workers, but if not, you should consider getting one to keep your team on task as well as track deliverables and progress. A few examples are Smartsheet, Wrike, Basecamp and Trello. Some are low cost or have free versions.
- Measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
If you’re not already operating with KPIs, consider tracking performance for each department and/or employee. KPIs are helpful to both managers and remote workers in measuring productivity and seeing how their actions affect the success of the organization.
- For contact centers, help desk and support departments, metrics could be average response times, number of calls, emails responded to or trouble tickets resolved per day.
- For marketing departments, metrics could be website visitors, new marketing qualified leads, lead conversion rate, customer acquisition cost (CAC), return on marketing investment (ROMI).
- For sales teams the metrics could be call volume, sales per rep, revenue per sales rep, lead-to-win conversion rate, average selling price, etc.
- Remember to Be Human
We’ve gone over several process- and technology-oriented solutions to help manage your staff, and while these are useful, it’s important to remember that you’re working with people, not robots. As such, they also are faced with a lot of stress on top of working in a new way. These stressors can include home-schooling their kids, caring for elderly parents, fears about becoming ill, worries about losing their paycheck and health insurance. With that in mind, you need to make an effort to relate to them as a person, not only an employee.
You may find that working from home has made employees more productive because they have the ability to work at any time of day. While you can’t always control workloads (especially if you’ve also had layoffs), knowing when to require more and when to give them a break will benefit your organization as a whole and give it a chance to grow.
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